Last week, while I was out at the Xbox Spring showcase in rainy San Francisco, I asked for your questions on the forthcoming Xbox Live Arcade version of Minecraft. I grabbed all of those queries, added some more from the comments section of my Minecraft preview, and put the whole lot to the game’s lead producer Roger Carpenter – and he only went and answered them.
The big revelation was the new multiplayer mode. Minecraft on XBLA will support four-player splitscreen as well as eight-player online modes. These can also be interchanged, so you could notionally have two four-person households of Minecraft fanatics crafting a world together. More on that later.
I also got a hands-on with the conversion, and it’s really strong. The joypad implementation is great, with right trigger handling all the chopping and mining, and a helpful set of menus for crafting. Every item in the crafting menu and inventory has a handy info box with it, so you can understand how to use it, even if you’ve never played the PC version, or scoured through online wikis.
It also looks perfectly Minecrafty. In my first go, I had to dig myself into a mountainside when I spent too long wandering around to build a proper shelter before nightfall. Trapped in my cavern, I looked up as snow started to fall, the simplistic flakes billowing across the screen. It was sort of lovely.
Anyway, here’s Roger with those answers:
Will Xbox players be able to modify the textures and skins of characters?
Right… this is one of the areas of development that we’re looking at in great detail. The easy answer is, at launch, no. But this is definitely something that Mojang, 4J Studios (the developer handling the conversion) and Microsoft are looking at, with a future in mind. Whatever we do will be a custom solution for Xbox, and will be for the Xbox version only. There are definitely some thoughts in that area.
Will Xbox players be able to download mods, and if so, how?
The easy answer is no, because it’s a closed system. But we’re aware of how important that mods are for Minecraft so… it’s going to be a tougher nut to crack. It would definitely be a nice thing to do. It’s something on the list of things to investigate. It might be for something further down the line. The priority we’re looking at things is in this order: skins, textures and then mods. That’s how we’ll tackle things.
How many people will be involved in a multiplayer session?
The game will support four-player local splitscreen and eight players over Xbox Live, and you can mix and match the splitscreen and online modes. Also, you can only play with people on your Friends List, so there’s no griefing from strangers.
Will the game support Achievements?
There are achievements obviously – and they’ll be very familiar to Minecraft players. I can’t talk about it yet though. There’s a reason for that… it’s a nice reason.
Will there be any interaction with the PC version?
Early on, there was a lot of chatter around that. Mojang, 4J and ourselves would all say that would be amazing. But the situation is, one version is significantly further ahead than the other version. If they were running in parallel it would potentially be viable, but on two different versions, it’s very difficult.
Will you be releasing any Avatar clothes so you can dress your character up as Steve?
Ah… you know… I don’t think I’ll get myself into to much trouble if I tell you that we are going to be looking at Avatar collections for Minecraft. I’m not going to say what it entails.
How about Kinect compatibility?
It won’t be for launch. We took on quite a task bringing this game to Xbox 360, and we didn’t want to break Minecraft. But it’s not off the menu.
Have you announced a price yet?
No, we’re not talking about price just now.
Carpenter also wouldn’t clarify on release date, re-iterating the ‘spring 2012′ message I’d had earlier. I cunningly re-interpreted as ‘end of March 2012′ for my preview feature a cople of weeks ago – Microsoft cheerfully told me to remove that immediately. So let’s stick with spring 2012 and not get into any more trouble.
Anyway, four-player splitscreen sounds like fun. I played the two-player version, and just trying to track each other down on the map was highly entertaining. If any of the texture or skin stuff does make it through the prototype phases, we’re going to be looking at real benchmark XBLA release.